EPA unveils new furnace, boiler standards


The Environmental Protection Agency proposed new standards Friday for harmful emissions from new woodstoves and heaters, saying the rules could yield as much as $2.4 billion in annual public health benefits.

The draft regulations follow a legal challenge from environmental and health advocates who contend in a lawsuit that updated regulations are long overdue. Emissions standards for residential woodstoves and boilers were last updated 25 years ago.

The proposed rule, which would not take effect until 2015, would only apply to wood heaters made after that — not those currently in homes or on sale, the EPA said. The draft regulations would not cover fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens or barbecues.

But where they would apply, the agency estimates the regulations would make the next generation of stoves and heaters 80 percent cleaner than those now on the market.

The result, according to the EPA, would be a significant reduction in pollution linked to heart attacks, strokes and asthma. Every dollar spent by the industry to comply with these standards will yield between $118 and $267 in health benefits for the American public, the agency said.

“Consumers will also see a monetary benefit from efficiency improvements in the new woodstoves, which use less wood to heat homes,” the EPA said.

Taken together, the health and economic benefits of the proposed standards are estimated to be at $1.8 billion to $2.4 billion annually.

In October, EarthJustice, the American Lung Association, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Clean Air Council and Environment and Human Health Inc. filed a lawsuit against the EPA contending that revised standards are 17 years overdue.

The agency is required under the statute to review emissions standards for wood furnaces and boilers every eight years, but the current regulations date back to 1988, the groups argue.

Several states filed a similar lawsuit.

On Friday, proponents of the new standards hailed the action as long needed.

“The EPA’s failure to update the standards has meant that homeowners install thousands of new wood-burning boilers, furnaces and stoves each year that produce far more dangerous air pollution than cleaner units would,” the American Lung Association said in a written statement.

The proposal follows a decades-long expansion of the market for outdoor boilers. More than 10,000 unites are sold annually, according the Clean Air Council.

Once published in the Federal Register, the draft rules will be subject to public comment for 90 days. The EPA will hold a public hearing Feb. 26 in Boston, and expects to issue a final rule in 2015.